Skip to main content

School of Nursing Prepares for Site Visits to Reaffirm Continuing B.S.N. Program Accreditation

Dr. Kimberly Sharp, dean of the School of Nursing at MC, said the upcoming site visits represent an important reaffirmation of the school's B.S.N. program.
Dr. Kimberly Sharp, dean of the School of Nursing at MC, said the upcoming site visits represent an important reaffirmation of the school's B.S.N. program.

Upcoming site visits by representatives from a pair of respected accrediting agencies are essential quality assurance measures for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program offered by the School of Nursing at Mississippi College.

School of Nursing leaders have been looking forward to the Feb. 16-18 visits from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), an autonomous national accrediting arm of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), the constitutional governing body responsible for establishing the rules and regulations and promulgating uniform standards of accreditation for Schools of Nursing throughout the state.

Dr. Kimberly Sharp, dean of the School of Nursing, said her faculty and staff have been engaged in preparations for the all-important site visits for several years.

“This is a really important reaffirmation of our B.S.N. program,” Sharp said. “Accreditation is important for us to attract students to the program and affirm we are meeting the criteria as a program of quality.”

The accrediting bodies consider various metrics, such as program expectations, governance, resources, and support, throughout the accreditation process.

“They address the curriculum and review outcomes to make sure you’re meeting your benchmarks,” Sharp said.

Along with setting minimum standards for educational programs preparing nurses for practice at all levels, accreditation of nursing education programs grants official recognition to those that meet established standards. It ensures that graduates are prepared for safe, current, and appropriate practice relative to their type of nursing education program and state laws governing nursing, and encourages continuing program improvement through assessment, evaluation, and consultation.

This year, the scheduled accreditation visits come with an extra degree of difficulty: because of the rise in Omicron variant COVID-19 cases throughout the state, the site visitors will be conducting their reviews virtually.

“They were supposed to be face-to-face,” Sharp said. “We have to show them what we do and how we do it, but having a virtual visit means they can’t see our campus. We’re having to collect all of our materials into a virtual repository that will be helpful to them.

“It’s a lot of work”

Not to mention the complexity of scheduling virtual meetings with faculty, preceptors, counsellors, registrars, librarians, and students across campus within a given window of time. Conversations with those most responsible for providing School of Nursing students with the resources they need to obtain the highest quality education will enable the visitors to fully understand how MC supports its academic programs.

Fortunately, with more than 15 years of educational leadership experience, Sharp has been involved with accreditation site visits for some time. Her work with the CCNE has given her insights into what questions to anticipate and how best to address any of the visitors’ concerns.

“As a school, we work on accreditation collaboratively,” Sharp said. “Part of my responsibility is coaching our faculty on what the site visitors’ expectations are and helping them understand how to prepare the information to show a true measure of outcomes.”

She said accreditation is actually a continuous process. School administrators prepare annual reports that are submitted each fall; a compliance report explaining any changes or trends that are happening within the program; a five-year report; and an interim report to make sure things are going well within the program, among other requirements. Then, if all goes well, the program will be placed on a 10-year accreditation cycle.

Sharp said this year’s site visits come at a pivotal time for the school.

“We added two new tracks since the last accreditation visit,” she said. “The accelerated BSN track for students with a first baccalaureate degree in another discipline started in 2016. In addition, we had a traditional R.N.-to-B.S.N. program, but we changed that in 2017 to offer an online option for students.”

The CCNE site team will consist of a team leader and two visitors; the IHL will be represented by the director of nursing for the state of Mississippi and two faculty colleagues from other schools of nursing in Mississippi.

Sharp said the CCNE site visit generates valuable information for the school.

“A site visit does not seek to undermine what you’re doing,” she said. “They help you see what you do well and strengthen things they identify could be improved. When the site visitors report back, you have an opportunity to respond. If there are things that can be fixed, you can let them know.

“It’s a learning process for everyone.”

Recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency, the CCNE ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate, and residency/fellowship programs in nursing. It serves the public interest by assessing and identifying programs that engage in effective educational practices.

As a voluntary, self-regulatory process, CCNE accreditation encourages continuing self-assessment by nursing programs and supports continuing growth and improvement of collegiate professional education and nurse residency/fellowship programs.

Sharp said the IHL visit follows any national accreditation event and focuses on the specific details of the program.

“They make sure all of our faculty data are in compliance, all of our health data are in compliance. Has everyone done their continuing education, has everyone gotten their required certifications and licenses, are faculty appropriately prepared to teach?

“They make sure every ‘I’ is dotted and ‘T’ is crossed.”

The IHL ensures the eligibility of nursing students to participate in nurse scholarship programs or other programs of assistance and of nursing graduates to take the examination prescribed by law to become Registered Nurses. The board requires all programs in nursing to be based on sound educational principles under the guidance of a competent faculty. It approves programs that are of superior caliber and encourages creative and intelligent experimentation based on sound principles.

Sharp said successful CCNE and IHL site visits will represent a significant milestone for the school as it prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first graduating class of 1973.

“We are excited to have the site visitors validate what we are doing in the School of Nursing, but also are mindful of the importance of being good stewards of what the Lord has entrusted to us,” she said. “We are eager to have this be an affirmation of the legacy of nursing here at MC that prepares us for the opportunities that the Lord will bless us with as we move forward.”